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Luke 16

The Parable of the Clever Steward

16:1 Jesus 1  also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who was informed of accusations 2  that his manager 3  was wasting 4  his assets. 16:2 So 5  he called the manager 6  in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? 7  Turn in the account of your administration, 8  because you can no longer be my manager.’ 16:3 Then 9  the manager said to himself, ‘What should I do, since my master is taking my position 10  away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig, 11  and I’m too ashamed 12  to beg. 16:4 I know 13  what to do so that when I am put out of management, people will welcome me into their homes.’ 14  16:5 So 15  he contacted 16  his master’s debtors one by one. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 16:6 The man 17  replied, ‘A hundred measures 18  of olive oil.’ The manager 19  said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’ 20  16:7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ The second man 21  replied, ‘A hundred measures 22  of wheat.’ The manager 23  said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 24  16:8 The 25  master commended the dishonest 26  manager because he acted shrewdly. 27  For the people 28  of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries 29  than the people 30  of light. 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, 31  so that when it runs out you will be welcomed 32  into the eternal homes. 33 

16:10 “The one who is faithful in a very little 34  is also faithful in much, and the one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 16:11 If then you haven’t been trustworthy 35  in handling worldly wealth, 36  who will entrust you with the true riches? 37  16:12 And if you haven’t been trustworthy 38  with someone else’s property, 39  who will give you your own 40 ? 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate 41  the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise 42  the other. You cannot serve God and money.” 43 

More Warnings about the Pharisees

16:14 The Pharisees 44  (who loved money) heard all this and ridiculed 45  him. 16:15 But 46  Jesus 47  said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in men’s eyes, 48  but God knows your hearts. For what is highly prized 49  among men is utterly detestable 50  in God’s sight.

16:16 “The law and the prophets were in force 51  until John; 52  since then, 53  the good news of the kingdom of God 54  has been proclaimed, and everyone is urged to enter it. 55  16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tiny stroke of a letter 56  in the law to become void. 57 

16:18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries 58  someone else commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

16:19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple 59  and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously 60  every day. 16:20 But at his gate lay 61  a poor man named Lazarus 62  whose body was covered with sores, 63  16:21 who longed to eat 64  what fell from the rich man’s table. In addition, the dogs 65  came and licked 66  his sores.

16:22 “Now 67  the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. 68  The 69  rich man also died and was buried. 70  16:23 And in hell, 71  as he was in torment, 72  he looked up 73  and saw Abraham far off with Lazarus at his side. 74  16:24 So 75  he called out, 76  ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus 77  to dip the tip of his finger 78  in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish 79  in this fire.’ 80  16:25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, 81  remember that in your lifetime you received your good things and Lazarus likewise bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish. 82  16:26 Besides all this, 83  a great chasm 84  has been fixed between us, 85  so that those who want to cross over from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 16:27 So 86  the rich man 87  said, ‘Then I beg you, father – send Lazarus 88  to my father’s house 16:28 (for I have five brothers) to warn 89  them so that they don’t come 90  into this place of torment.’ 16:29 But Abraham said, 91  ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they must respond to 92  them.’ 16:30 Then 93  the rich man 94  said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead 95  goes to them, they will repent.’ 16:31 He 96  replied to him, ‘If they do not respond to 97  Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” 98 

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1 tn Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

2 tn These are not formal legal charges, but reports from friends, acquaintances, etc.; Grk “A certain man was rich who had a manager, and this one was reported to him as wasting his property.”

3 sn His manager was the steward in charge of managing the house. He could have been a slave trained for the role.

4 tn Or “squandering.” This verb is graphic; it means to scatter (L&N 57.151).

5 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the result of the reports the man received about his manager.

6 tn Grk “him”; the referent (the manager) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 sn Although phrased as a question, the charges were believed by the owner, as his dismissal of the manager implies.

8 tn Or “stewardship”; the Greek word οἰκονομία (oikonomia) is cognate with the noun for the manager (οἰκονόμος, oikonomo").

9 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events in the parable.

10 tn Grk “the stewardship,” “the management.”

11 tn Here “dig” could refer (1) to excavation (“dig ditches,” L&N 19.55) or (2) to agricultural labor (“work the soil,” L&N 43.3). In either case this was labor performed by the uneducated, so it would be an insult as a job for a manager.

12 tn Grk “I do not have strength to dig; I am ashamed to beg.”

sn To beg would represent a real lowering of status for the manager, because many of those whom he had formerly collected debts from, he would now be forced to beg from.

13 tn This is a dramatic use of the aorist and the verse is left unconnected to the previous verse by asyndeton, giving the impression of a sudden realization.

14 sn Thinking ahead, the manager develops a plan to make people think kindly of him (welcome me into their homes).

15 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the result of the manager’s decision.

16 tn Grk “summoning.” The participle προσκαλεσάμενος (proskalesameno") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

17 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the first debtor) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

18 sn A measure (sometimes translated “bath”) was just over 8 gallons (about 30 liters). This is a large debt – about 875 gallons (3000 liters) of olive oil, worth 1000 denarii, over three year’s pay for a daily worker.

19 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the manager) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Here δέ (de) has not been translated for stylistic reasons.

20 sn The bill was halved (sit down quickly, and write fifty). What was the steward doing? This is debated. 1) Did he simply lower the price? 2) Did he remove interest from the debt? 3) Did he remove his own commission? It is hard to be sure. Either of the latter two options is more likely. The goal was clear: The manager would be seen in a favorable light for bringing a deflationary trend to prices.

21 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the second debtor) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Here δέ (de) has not been translated for stylistic reasons.

22 sn The hundred measures here was a hundreds cors. A cor was a Hebrew dry measure for grain, flour, etc., of between 10-12 bushels (about 390 liters). This was a huge amount of wheat, representing the yield of about 100 acres, a debt of between 2500-3000 denarii.

23 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the manager) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

24 sn The percentage of reduction may not be as great because of the change in material.

25 tn Grk “And the.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

26 sn Is the manager dishonest because of what he just did? Or is it a reference to what he had done earlier, described in v. 1? This is a difficult question, but it seems unlikely that the master, having fired the man for prior dishonesty, would now commend those same actions. It would also be unusual for Jesus to make that point of the story the example. Thus it is more likely the reference to dishonesty goes back to the earliest events, while the commendation is for the cleverness of the former manager reflected in vv. 5-7.

27 sn Where this parable ends is debated: Does it conclude with v. 7, after v. 8a, after v. 8b, or after v. 9? Verse 8a looks as if it is still part of the story, with its clear reference to the manager, while 8b looks like Jesus’ application, since its remarks are more general. So it is most likely the parable stops after v. 8a.

28 tn Grk “sons” (an idiom).

29 tn Grk “with their own generation.”

30 tn Grk “sons.” Here the phrase “sons of light” is a reference to the righteous. The point is that those of the world often think ahead about consequences better than the righteous do.

31 tn Grk “unrighteous mammon.” Mammon is the Aramaic term for wealth or possessions. The point is not that money is inherently evil, but that it is often misused so that it is a means of evil; see 1 Tim 6:6-10, 17-19. The call is to be generous and kind in its use. Zacchaeus becomes the example of this in Luke’s Gospel (19:1-10).

32 sn The passive refers to the welcome of heaven.

33 tn Grk “eternal tents” (as dwelling places).

34 sn The point of the statement faithful in a very little is that character is shown in how little things are treated.

35 tn Or “faithful.”

36 tn Grk “the unrighteous mammon.” See the note on the phrase “worldly wealth” in v. 9.

37 sn Entrust you with the true riches is a reference to future service for God. The idea is like 1 Cor 9:11, except there the imagery is reversed.

38 tn Or “faithful.”

39 tn Grk “have not been faithful with what is another’s.”

40 tn Grk “what is your own.”

41 sn The contrast between hate and love here is rhetorical. The point is that one will choose the favorite if a choice has to be made.

42 tn Or “and treat [the other] with contempt.”

43 tn Grk “God and mammon.” This is the same word (μαμωνᾶς, mamwnas; often merely transliterated as “mammon”) translated “worldly wealth” in vv. 9, 11.

sn The term money is used to translate mammon, the Aramaic term for wealth or possessions. The point is not that money is inherently evil, but that it is often misused so that it is a means of evil; see 1 Tim 6:6-10, 17-19. God must be first, not money or possessions.

44 sn See the note on Pharisees in 5:17.

45 tn A figurative extension of the literal meaning “to turn one’s nose up at someone”; here “ridicule, sneer at, show contempt for” (L&N 33.409).

46 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.

47 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

48 tn Grk “before men.” The contrast is between outward appearance (“in people’s eyes”) and inward reality (“God knows your hearts”). Here the Greek term ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo") is used twice in a generic sense, referring to both men and women, but “men” has been retained in the text to provide a strong verbal contrast with “God” in the second half of the verse.

49 tn Or “exalted.” This refers to the pride that often comes with money and position.

50 tn Or “is an abomination,” “is abhorrent” (L&N 25.187).

51 tn There is no verb in the Greek text; one must be supplied. Some translations (NASB, NIV) supply “proclaimed” based on the parallelism with the proclamation of the kingdom. The transitional nature of this verse, however, seems to call for something more like “in effect” (NRSV) or, as used here, “in force.” Further, Greek generally can omit one of two kinds of verbs – either the equative verb or one that is already mentioned in the preceding context (ExSyn 39).

52 sn John refers to John the Baptist.

53 sn Until John; since then. This verse indicates a shift in era, from law to kingdom.

54 sn The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus. It is a realm in which Jesus rules and to which those who trust him belong. See Luke 6:20; 11:20; 17:20-21.

55 tn Many translations have “entereth violently into it” (ASV) or “is forcing his way into it” (NASB, NIV). This is not true of everyone. It is better to read the verb here as passive rather than middle, and in a softened sense of “be urged.” See Gen 33:11; Judg 13:15-16; 19:7; 2 Sam 3:25, 27 in the LXX. This fits the context well because it agrees with Jesus’ attempt to persuade his opponents to respond morally. For further discussion and details, see D. L. Bock, Luke (BECNT), 2:1352-53.

56 tn Or “one small part of a letter” (L&N 33.37).

57 tn Grk “to fall”; that is, “to drop out of the text.” Jesus’ point may be that the law is going to reach its goal without fail, in that the era of the promised kingdom comes.

58 sn The examples of marriage and divorce show that the ethical standards of the new era are still faithful to promises made in the presence of God. To contribute to the breakup of a marriage, which involved a vow before God, is to commit adultery. This works whether one gets a divorce or marries a person who is divorced, thus finalizing the breakup of the marriage. Jesus’ point concerns the need for fidelity and ethical integrity in the new era.

59 sn Purple describes a fine, expensive dye used on luxurious clothing, and by metonymy, refers to clothing colored with that dye. It pictures someone of great wealth.

60 tn Or “celebrated with ostentation” (L&N 88.255), that is, with showing off. Here was the original conspicuous consumer.

61 tn The passive verb ἐβέβλητο (ebeblhto) does not indicate how Lazarus got there. Cf. BDAG 163 s.v. βάλλω 1.b, “he lay before the door”; Josephus, Ant. 9.10.2 (9.209).

62 sn This is the one time in all the gospels that a figure in a parable is mentioned by name. It will become important later in the account.

63 tn Or “was covered with ulcers.” The words “whose body” are implied in the context (L&N 23.180).

64 tn Grk “to eat his fill,” but this phrase has been simplified as “to eat” for stylistic reasons.

65 tn The term κύνες (kunes) refers to “wild” dogs (either “street” dogs or watchdogs), not house pets (L&N 4.34).

66 sn When the dogs came and licked his sores it meant that he was unclean. See the negative image of Rev 22:15 that draws on this picture.

67 tn Grk “Now it happened that the.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.

68 tn Grk “to Abraham’s bosom.” The phrase “carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” describes being gathered to the fathers and is a way to refer to heaven (Gen 15:15; 47:30; Deut 31:16).

69 tn Grk “And the.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

70 sn The shorter description suggests a different fate, which is confirmed in the following verses.

71 sn The Greek term Hades stands for the Hebrew concept of Sheol. It is what is called hell today. This is where the dead were gathered (Ps 16:10; 86:13). In the NT Hades has an additional negative force of awaiting judgment (Rev 20:13).

72 sn Hades is a place of torment, especially as one knows that he is separated from God.

73 tn Grk “he lifted up his eyes” (an idiom).

74 tn Grk “in his bosom,” the same phrase used in 16:22. This idiom refers to heaven and/or participation in the eschatological banquet. An appropriate modern equivalent is “at Abraham’s side.”

75 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of previous actions in the narrative.

76 tn Grk “calling out he said”; this is redundant in contemporary English style and has been simplified to “he called out.”

77 sn The rich man had not helped Lazarus before, when he lay outside his gate (v. 2), but he knew him well enough to know his name. This is why the use of the name Lazarus in the parable is significant. (The rich man’s name, on the other hand, is not mentioned, because it is not significant for the point of the story.)

78 sn The dipping of the tip of his finger in water is evocative of thirst. The thirsty are in need of God’s presence (Ps 42:1-2; Isa 5:13). The imagery suggests the rich man is now separated from the presence of God.

79 tn Or “in terrible pain” (L&N 24.92).

80 sn Fire in this context is OT imagery; see Isa 66:24.

81 tn The Greek term here is τέκνον (teknon), which could be understood as a term of endearment.

82 tn Or “in terrible pain” (L&N 24.92). Here is the reversal Jesus mentioned in Luke 6:20-26.

83 tn Grk “And in all these things.” There is no way Lazarus could carry out this request even if divine justice were not involved.

84 sn The great chasm between heaven and hell is impassable forever. The rich man’s former status meant nothing now.

85 tn Grk “between us and you.”

86 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “so” to indicate the rich man’s response to Abraham’s words.

87 tn Grk “he”; the referent (the rich man, v. 19) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

88 tn Grk “Then I beg you, father, that you send him”; the referent (Lazarus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

89 sn To warn them. The warning would consist of a call to act differently than their dead brother had, or else meet his current terrible fate.

90 tn Grk “lest they also come.”

91 tn Grk “says.” This is one of the few times Luke uses the historical present.

92 tn Or “obey”; Grk “hear.” This recalls the many OT texts calling for a righteous heart to respond to people in need (Deut 14:28-29; Isa 3:14-15; Amos 2:6-8; Mic 2:1-2; Zech 7:9-10).

93 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

94 tn Grk “he”; the referent (the rich man, v. 19) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

95 sn If someone from the dead goes to them. The irony and joy of the story is that what is denied the rich man’s brothers, a word of warning from beyond the grave, is given to the reader of the Gospel in this exchange.

96 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.

97 tn Or “obey”; Grk “hear.” See the note on the phrase “respond to” in v. 29.

98 sn The concluding statement of the parable, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead, provides a hint that even Jesus’ resurrection will not help some to respond. The message of God should be good enough. Scripture is the sign to be heeded.

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